Some journalists are wondering if Washington Post blogger, Dave Weigel’s resignation last week was justified and what it means for political reporting.
Weigel’s messages to a private list serve e-mail group called “JournoList” were leaked and published on Media Bistro’s FishBowlDC.
The comments in Weigel’s e-mails targeted conservatives, the beat he covered for The Post.
He made negative comments about everyone from Rush Limbaugh (writing that he hopes his 2010 emergency hospital trip would fail) to Drudge Report’s Matt Drudge (writing that he should “set himself on fire”).
The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz wrote June 26 that Weigel was hired three months ago to blog about conservatives.
Kurtz stated that The Daily Caller’s “more inflammatory comments” led to Weigel’s resignation.
Washington Post public editor Andrew Alexander wrote June 25 that “Weigel’s e-mails showed strikingly poor judgment and revealed a bias that only underscored existing complaints from conservatives that he couldn’t impartially cover them.”
Alexander wrote that “the bigger loss” than Weigel’s job is that the Post lost its “standing among conservatives.”
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MediaMatters, a progressive media watchdog site, noted June 28 that The Post has never hired somebody full-time to write specifically about the ‘liberal movement’,” but now is considering hiring two people to replace Weigel’s role covering the conservative movement.
James Fallows wrote for The Atlantic June 25 that he and four of his colleagues at the Atlantic think “the Post was wrong to force its reporter David Weigel out today.”
“Yes, the emails shouldn’t have been leaked, and even when they were the paper shouldn’t have gotten rid of Weigel,” Fallows wrote.
JournoList was a private forum run by Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein and was shut down Friday, the New York Times reported.
Klein wrote June 25 that he started Journolist in Feb. 2007 after an e-mail exchange with another journalist. The list serv was created to offer its members “an insulated space where the lure of a smart, ongoing conversation would encourage journalists, policy experts and assorted other observers to share their insights with one another.”
In Weigel’s case, Klein wrote “private e-mails were twisted into a public story.”
Ross Douthat blogged June 25 on the New York Times that Weigel’s e-mails to a private group didn’t break any journalistic standard. “The real story here isn’t Weigel’s public embarrassment — it’s the shame of FishbowlDC for publishing private correspondence, and the disgrace of JournoList for harboring at least one would-be career wrecker, ” Douthat wrote.
The Economist blogged June 28 that Weigel’s resignation shows The Washington Post “reverting to a discredited model of political media in which journalists contort themselves in an effort to pretend not to have political opinions, while readers, unable to figure out what the journalists are trying to say, gradually turn to more honest blogs instead. Furthermore, the paper has failed to defend an employee targeted by a politically motivated smear campaign.”
But, as Mediaite reported June 28, the e-mails haven’t killed Weigel’s career — he’s already signed on with MSNBC as an exclusive, paid contributor.